A penny for your thoughts! I’ve often wondered about the meaning of the ancient idiom; if my thoughts are really that cheap. Would I really sell them for that amount to disclose to my mum that I played hanky panky with our neighbour’s daughter as a teenager, or own up to my elder sister to being responsible for the rapid depletion of her Mills and Boon collection just to impress the object of my affection at the time? Never mind the more serious thought of coup plots, impending adulterous affairs and births of million dollar enterprises. Then again, lurking behind every idiom and proverb is some sliver of truth, and this I have sought to make sense of in this post. After many agonising days of soul searching, I finally found the clue to breaking the code to ascertaining the true value of the basest/cheapest thought hiding in plain sight; the penny’s age.
Good week everyone! One of the channels I love to watch the most on our local cable network is the Crime channel. The material there is so fascinating; the different motives people have for killing their loved ones, colleagues, strangers, range from lust for money to mercy killing and fits of rage or jealousy. Of particular relevance to this post is a documentary I watched about the British great train robbery which took place in the sixties. I’m not quite sure of how much was stolen by the robbers but I think it was in the region of three million pounds sterling. What I did find out in the course of the documentary was that after the robbers shared their loot equally, each one ended up with the sum of approximately two hundred and fifty thousand pounds each; an equivalence of three million pounds of this day’s currency. This means that the value of the pound sterling is approximately twelve times what it is today. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this but please just bear with me for just a moment. My father bought a house in Liverpool in the sixties for about fifteen hundred pounds. Today houses in that borough go for prices that range from a hundred thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling. So, for the sake of greed, even though the house is his no more, I would say that the value of the pound as regards the real estate market has to date increased a hundred fold. My extensive research has shown that the origin of the topical idiom lies somewhere in the sixteenth century.
This is where arithmetic and interest come in. Since a penny is a hundredth of a pound, it is safe to say that a penny in the sixties would be worth a pound sterling in Liverpool and twelve pence in the general areas of England. Shoot me if you want to but I will say my piece ‘cause this is my spot. If then, in the past fifty years, the value of the penny has increased by between 1200% and approximately 10000%,by how much value has the penny increased in the past five hundred years, given the idiom’s inception in the sixteenth century? It is at this point that my mathematical prowess begins to falter so I’ll hazard a rough estimate and add two zeroes to come up with a value ranging between a hundred and twenty pence and a thousand pence. In other words, the value of the basest human thought ranges between one pound twenty pence and ten pounds sterling in today's currency! Quite elementary my dear Watson!
In conclusion, I hereby call for an advocacy for the amendment to the idiom “a penny for your thoughts” to “to what currency value are you amenable to exchanging your thoughts”. This, I feel, will sustain this venerable idiom for millennia to come, on account of its ability to seamlessly pass through currency borders, and its ability to blend with whatever inflation rates that may exist in our increasingly global world. Just a thought, and I’m giving it away for free! Have a great weekend everyone!